Project Cal-WellA project to promote mental health awareness and wellness among California's kindergarten through twelfth grade students.
Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Project Cal-Well is designed to raise awareness of mental health and expand access to school and community-based mental health services for youth, families, and school communities.
Project Cal-Well was initially launched by the California Department of Education (CDE) in partnership with three Southern California local educational agencies (LEAs) from 2014–19: Garden Grove Unified School District (USD), ABC USD and San Diego County Office of Education (COE). Building off successes and lessons learned from the first cycle, the CDE is partnering with three LEAs in Northern California for the second cycle (2019–2024): Humboldt, Stanislaus and Sacramento COEs. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School Health Services Research and Evaluation Team is evaluating the initiative.
The CDE received two cohorts of five –year grants from SAMHSA to launch Project Cal-Well in 2014-19 (Cohort 1) and 2019-24 (Cohort 2). Using a three-component intervention model, Project Cal-Well strives to achieve the following goals:
Goal 1: Provide universal supports to create positive school climates that help school-aged youth develop skills to promote resilience and pro-social behaviors; avert development of mental and behavioral health disorders; and prevent youth violence.
Goal 2: Increase access to and availability of sustainable culturally competent and developmentally appropriate school-based mental health (SBMH) programs staffed by mental health staff to screen for, provide early intervention for, and to address any ongoing mental health needs of children with symptoms consistent with a mental disorder(s).
Goal 3: Build partnerships and cross-system collaborations to promote youth well-being and increase and improve access to sustainable culturally competent and developmentally appropriate community-based mental health services.
Cohort 2 (2019-24)
In Cohort 2, the CDE is expanding its work into Northern California partnering with the following LEAs, serving students and families from eight school districts from five counties:
- Humboldt County Office of Education
- Sacramento County Office of Education
- Stanislaus County Office of Education
Cohort 1 (2014-19)
In Cohort 1, the CDE served students and families from five school districts through a partnership with the following three LEAs in Southern California:
- ABC Unified School District
- Garden Grove Unified School District
- San Diego County Office of Education
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2018-19)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2017-18)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2016-17)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2015-16)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2014-15)
From 2015-16 to 2018-19:
- More students in Project Cal-Well schools reported willingness to seek help from a counselor, doctor or therapist if scared, stressed or depressed (secondary students increased from 15% to 19%, elementary from 22% to 27%); and
More Project Cal-Well school staff…
- Knew how to identify students who were in emotional distress or in need of mental health services (from 72% to 77%)
- Received support from their schools to address students’ mental health needs (from 51% to 62%)
- Were confident in their ability help students address their mental health needs (from 51% to 55%)
- Engaged in specific actions ten or more times in the past year to support students, including listening to students’ issues (from 41% to 52%), talking with them about their issues (42% to 49%), helping them to calm down (41% to 46%), and giving them information to help with their mental health related issues (19% to 24%).
- Referred students to services and supports for mental health needs, including school-based (75% to 85%) and community-based (from 24% to 42%) mental health services, crisis hotlines (8% to 20%), and self-help strategies (29% to 61%).
- Had put into practice their schools’ written policy about how to support students with mental health concerns, including suicide prevention and post-vention (from 13% to 26%).
A key component of Project Cal-Well is to deliver Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to district and school staff statewide, at no cost. YMHFA is a research-based curriculum created upon the medical first aid model. It is designed to provide parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, neighbors, and other caring adults with skills to help a school-age child or youth who may be experiencing emotional distress, the onset of a mental illness, addiction challenge or who may be in crisis. YMHFA participants learn to recognize signs and symptoms of children and youth in emotional distress, initiate and offer help, and connect the youth to professional care through a five-step action plan.
Unless it is used as a refresher, YMHFA training is not intended for staff with a mental health background such as school psychologists, social workers, clinicians, etc., due to its basic nature. The ideal audience includes teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, and any other credentialed staff, classified staff (school secretaries, registrars, yard supervisors, campus monitors, bus drivers, lunch staff, janitors, aides, after school staff, etc.), parents, youth employers, and other community partners that have contact with students.
This no cost training is currently delivered virtually through two hours of self-paced learning and five and a half hours of instructor-led training. The training can be delivered in evenings, weekends, and is also available in Spanish.
YMHFA content now includes critical components such as cultural considerations, impact of culture on trauma, school violence and bullying, social media impacts, and self-care. Additionally, the training has been restructured to include information relevant to young children in the elementary school grades.
The CDE is seeking public, charter, and private schools, districts, and community organizations to host YMHFA training. For more information, please reference the letter from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction which encourages county, district, and charter school administrators to take advantage of this free training.
To host YMHFA training for your staff, submit your request to YMHFA@cde.ca.gov.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on Campus High School Workshops (NCHS) and Club Support
The NCHS is a student-led club that focuses on mental health and wellness and provides a critical opportunity that fosters student involvement, promotes youth voice, awareness, and self-advocacy. The NCHS provides activities for youth that help decrease bullying and the stigma often experienced by those living with mental illness, potentially averting mental health crises, helping reduce youth suicide, and increasing school safety. Students involved in NCHS Clubs and activities are becoming lifelong advocates in the mission to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and eliminate suicides. The goal of NCHS Workshops is to equip high school student teams and their advisors with information and support to start an NCHS Club on their campus. Through the workshop participants learn, in detail, the goal of NCHS Clubs, activities they can hold, local and statewide activities in which NCHS Clubs can participate, and how NAMI affiliates can support their work.
The California Department of Education contracts with the University of California, San Francisco’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies to conduct an independent evaluation of Project Cal-Well program activities. The following data collection instruments were created to assess the social emotional wellness and mental health needs and perceptions among students, school staff, and principals:
- Project Cal-Well California Healthy Kids Survey - Elementary (PDF; Revised 26-Nov-2019)
- Project Cal-Well California Healthy Kids Survey - Secondary (PDF; Revised 26-Nov-2019)
- For student surveys since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, see the Mental Health Supports Module of the California Healthy Kids Survey
- Project Cal-Well School Staff Survey (DOCX)
Copyrighted survey questions addressing teacher efficacy and compassion fatigue were added to the School Staff Survey since 2020-21.
Statewide Principal Survey:UCSF Project Cal-Well Web page
Project Cal-Well resources including resource and evaluation briefs, and survey results from the California Principal Mental Health Survey.
Resources below are organized based on Project Cal-Well Three-Component Model (PDF).
Component 1: Creating a Positive School Climate
Student mental health starts with prevention. It is critical that schools work on creating a safe, respectful, and supportive school climate so all students have the opportunity to learn and thrive in a positive learning environment.
- California Center for School Climate
Provides on-going trainings and technical assistance on a wide variety of school climate data use and implementation topics. School districts can request technical assistance . The site includes a searchable resource library , Project Cal-Well briefs and resources , and a monthly newsletter .
- California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey
The CDE school climate survey that supports local data-informed school climate improvements, including survey modules for mental health supports and social and emotional health.
- Resources for School Staff
- Classroom WISE is a free three-part training package that assists K-12 educators in supporting the mental health of students in the classroom.
- Educator Resilience and Trauma-Informed Self-Care Self Assessment and Planning Tool is a tool helping educators identify areas of strength and growth related to self-care.
- Managing Mental Wellness (PDF) is an easy-to-read toolkit that includes practical strategies and resources for teachers to promote self-care and help students in class and in crisis.
- A compilation of educator wellness resources
from the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center.
- Resources for Students
- Let’s Talk About It: A Graphic Guide to Mental Health
Comics written for students addressing mental health, suicide, and addiction; including strategies and tips to deal with stress, promote resilience, and offer hope.
- A no-cost, online course
developed by Boston University for students to address stress during the pandemic.
- Let’s Talk About It: A Graphic Guide to Mental Health
- School Climate Improvement Resource Package
A variety of resource guides developed by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.
- Universal Screening
Two briefs developed by WestEd, Project Cal-Well technical assistance provider, to support districts in implementing universal social-emotional screening among students.
- Youth Suicide Prevention
CDE resources to guide suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.
Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)
PBIS provides a tiered intervention framework to deliver evidence-based strategies to promote a positive school climate and address student disciplinary issues.
Strategies on relationship and community building to prevent and address conflicts, and repair harm as a result of student behaviors or wrongdoings.
- International Institute for Restorative Practices
- Oakland Unified School District Restorative Justice
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Cultivating social and emotional competencies among students have shown to improve student motivation, reduce problematic behavior, and improve school climate.
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning
- CDE SEL Resources
- Oakland Unified School District SEL
- Sacramento City Unified School District SEL
Trauma Informed Practices
Resources to help educators create trauma-informed schools and compassionate classrooms.
- Center for Resiliency, Hope, and Wellness in Schools provides resources on evidence-based trauma-informed interventions in schools.
- Resilience in School Environments (RISE), a Kaiser Permanente’s initiative to promote social and emotional resiliency in schools, including a four-part e-learning modules to support trauma-informed classrooms .
- The National Child Traumatic Stress Network—Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators .
- The Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Oriented (TR) Schools Toolkit outlines a framework for implementing trauma-informed, resilience-oriented approaches in any school or school district.
Component 2: Increase Access to School-Based Mental Health Services
A Guide to Increase Mental Health Services for Students (PDF)
This guide is created by Project Cal-Well, with input from the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup, to assist schools and districts to build capacity to better address mental health challenges among students.
Component 3: Build Community Partnerships and Collaborations
A California Guide for Sharing Student Health and Education Information
Best practices for schools on information sharing between schools and community agencies.
School Mental Health Referral Pathway Toolkit
Provides best practice guidance and strategies to support schools in referring and coordinating mental health services for students under a multi-tiered system of supports.
California Safe and Supportive Schools Newsletter
A monthly newsletter on school climate and mental health resources, trainings, and information.
K-12 Mental Health Listserv
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